Airstream Saga continued – Test run

If I didn’t see it before, I’m beginning to understand the universality of life. Lessons I’ve learned in business also apply in my personal life, and vice versa. Thus, as my wife and I begin to travel the road in our Airstream trailer, I’m seeing how the lessons I’m learning also apply to the effective running of a law office.

Rather than compel you to read this saga in order to learn the lessons I’m seeing as we begin our new adventures, I’ve decided to list the lessons first. Then, if you want to enjoy the saga, read on.

OK, so what are the lessons to be learned for the law practice. After all, why else would you be interested?

1.    The firm should create a strategic plan. Without one in place, you will be wandering, not really knowing if you’re going in the right direction.  You won’t have a direction. Saying that you want to be profitable, by itself, is not a direction.
You will be like Lewis Carroll’s Alice and the Cheshire Cat. As she tumbles down, Alice asks the Cat: “How do I get to …?” The Cat asks “Where do you want to go?” Alice responds, “Anywhere…” still tumbling down. The Cat says: “Keep going, you’ll get there.”

2.    With a plan in place, there must be a managing partner, someone with some authority and delegated responsibility. Without a managing partner, you will argue about which driveway to enter, which coffee provider to engage, and many other daily routines. These are mundane decisions, not a strategic plan.

3.    If something goes awry, or is a variance from the plan, determine what future action needs to be taken rather than worry about fault or blame. Remember, this is a team effort.

You can always change the managing partner. But, unless you support the managing partner, you will find that no one wants to be the managing partner, the firm will flounder and, ultimately, the discontent and bickering will reach a crescendo that requires the break-up of the firm.

4.    Perfection is seldom possible, so don’t use that as your standard for evaluation. If you fail to heed this principle, you will always be unhappy.

5.    Lawyers are care givers; the practice of law is a loving and caring profession. Why is it that so many lawyers are so unhappy? Working as a team, lawyer(s) and staff, can produce results desired by clients and a satisfying, contented and, yes, even happy environment.

Each of these lessons is suggested by what my wife and I experienced in our Airstream saga thus far — first in going from the idea of having an RV to actually buying and outfitting our vintage trailer, then in getting the trailer functional and on the road. At every step, even with the best intentions in the world, we had challenges and problems. Reflection and teamwork were the answers every time . . . but not always the first or the obvious answers. Keep the five law firm lessons in mind as you follow down the road with us.

We went for a test run. Hooked up the trailer, with help from the RV storage manager. All the parts were there. <g>  Then, gingerly, we started out. Seemed o.k. Went to an official weigh station to satisfy the Department of Motor Vehicles that required an official weight certificate for new registration.

There were two possible entrances to the station. I wanted to go one way and my wife wanted to go the other. Of course, we went my wife’s way. It was just easier than fighting with her, and perhaps being wrong in the end. What price I would have had to pay then! I was right. <g> Instead of hearing a lecture from my wife, I had to hear the lecture from the weigh station master, and had to drive out, find a place to turn around and return to driveway that had been my first choice.

Seemed easier than it was. Found a small shopping center, went in and drove toward the next driveway to come out. Suddenly, without warning, a shopping cart appeared on the side. It moved at the insistence of the trailer. <g> But, now, I have a scratch on the Airstream.

Went back to the weigh station, got our certificate and drove on to the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is the second visit to the DMV, the first having been without the trailer. We paid our money earlier so we wouldn’t be penalized for being late, but they wanted to see the actual trailer. So, we’re back, with the trailer. No place to park a 27 foot trailer (and 17 foot pick-up truck). So, I drove around the lot. I knew that the back end of a truck and trailer “cheats” and one needs a very wide berth to make a turn. Otherwise, the rear tires climb over the curb, at best, and hits something, at worst. Fortunately, the Airstream merely went over the curb despite my best effort.

The inspector was nice, no lecture. There were so many people in line that we had to leave to return the trailer to storage before they closed. You see, our repair folks won’t take the trailer until next week and there is no place by our home to place the trailer. We live in the urban jungle, not rural bliss. So, we’ll have to go back to the DMV a third time to finish the paperwork. (Sounds like an IKEA adventure to me!)

We returned the trailer, and began to disconnect. Not so easy. There was this part and that part. And the manager needed to close. So we got a bit flustered. We disconnected the trailer and then left. Driving several blocks down the road, my wife asked me whether I had the hitch lock. I said “no,” didn’t she have it. She said “no.” Then I realized that I had left it on the bumper of the truck. It was not there any longer and I assumed I had lost it as we started driving out. Only $16, not a large price to pay for a “test run.”

There were two other parts, small though they be, that we can’t remember returning to their rightful spot.  The lock fell onto the floor of the RV storage facility and the manager has it. Phew, saved $16! The other two parts? Don’t know, but hope they’re there when we return next week for another test run and our trip to the repair shop.

Stay tuned!

Those of you who have read to this point probably remember that I’m an avid cyclist. Years ago, I enthusiastically persuaded my wife to join me for a jaunt on a tandem bike (“Two for tea.”) Since we’re both “control freaks” (as is every attorney I’ve ever met), we had challenges. She didn’t like the way I steered and stopped pedaling. Without the support of the rear stoker, I didn’t have enough strength to start us up from a stop light. So, we had to come to terms with each other quickly or we couldn’t go anywhere. We never laughed so hard before or since. Great therapy at a very modest price. But, we have never been on a tandem since.

Our current Airstream saga reminds me of that experience. My wife continued to “yap” at me for what I had forgotten to do, saying that if I had only read all the material she had gathered for me, I would have known what to do and not misplaced any of the parts, etc. Of course, the fact that she had read all the material and we still had become flustered on our first test run escaped her attention. In the day since our adventure, we have come to terms with what we need to do as a team and I suspect our next effort will be more successful. As in everything in life, the first effort is seldom perfect. And, using the Paretto principle, if you’re 80% right, go for it! We did and we’re learning. My wife is happy living her fantasy and I think it’s a hoot.

Postscript: We have returned to the DMV for our third time and have our license: STESPOT (Suite Spot).  If you see us on the road, however, I recommend that you move over … at least until I get a couple of more test runs.


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